Considered one of the best teams in the NHL this past decade, the San Jose Sharks have reached a crossroads. For the first time in years, they are in a fight to make the playoffs as everything from management, the lack of a captain and goaltending have been under fire. The Sharks didn’t do much at the trade deadline so it begs the question: does the team think they are still a contender?
What Should The San Jose Sharks Do?
San Jose has had a ton of regular season success but playoff success has eluded them, not unlike the Washington Capitals. They watched the Anaheim Ducks become the first California-based team to win the Stanley Cup back in 2007, while the Los Angeles Kings have two championships in the past three years. The Kings haven’t been as dominant so far this year either and aren’t a lock for the playoffs. But in their case, they have played a lot of hockey the past three years and unlike the Sharks, they have results to show for their efforts.
Leadership has been a question for the Sharks this season. Joe Thornton was stripped of the captaincy and the team went into the season without a captain. Thornton continues to be a big voice for the Sharks alongside stalwarts Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski. With each playoff failure, Thornton has taken a lot of the blame for being a great player who can’t lead his team to a Cup. It is never up to one player to win a championship and while Thornton has had his moments where he can better, the same can be said for the whole team. The captaincy is very a much symbol in hockey as most captains will say it isn’t just one guy, but rather a core group of leaders in every dressing room.
Goaltending has also been an issue for the Sharks this season. Antti Niemi has a Stanley Cup ring from his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, but hasn’t been able to replicate that success in a Sharks uniform. As a goalie, he isn’t elite, as he has cost his team games at times and doesn’t inspire confidence. Backup Alex Stalock hasn’t shown enough to be considered a number-one but AHL goalie Troy Grosenick had a nice debut early on this season, albeit in a very small sample size.
The Sharks have a lot of good players to work with, a luxury other struggling teams wish they had. Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, Logan Couture, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns to go alongside some very promising youngsters in Tomas Hertl and Mirco Mueller are all positives in one of the more trying seasons in San Jose in recent years.
More than anything, the Sharks need a change of direction both in management and behind the bench. General Manager Doug Wilson and Head Coach Todd McLellan have done a good job with this hockey team, but it hasn’t been enough to result in a Stanley Cup. The Sharks have a lot of good pieces to build around and a complete tear-down is not necessary. The lack of trades at the deadline was either a confidence booster that the current group can get the job done or perhaps missing the playoffs can be the wake up call this team needs.
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